The Grand Canyon: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Posted on Oct 03, 2012 in category

A long five hour drive from Las Vegas, Nevada to the Grand Canyon's South Rim in Arizona did have a few points of interest. Firstly, the baking Mojave desert was fearsome. Even yucca, agave and cactus plants as well as various brush shrubs seem to struggle in this sandy, gravelly and rocky landscape.

 A reminder of nature's 'Wild West'.

Another interesting site en route was Hoover Dam originally called Boulder Dam. In 1929 President Hoover authorised the start of the Boulder Canyon Project with the first silver spike ceremoniously inserted in 1930. The project was both government and privately funded with six companies combining in a contract worth  $US48,890,955. Its construction coincided with the beginning of the Great Depression. Fortunately, the project provided over 5,000 jobs at its peak giving the workers and their families three meals a day and an average wage of $US1825 which compared very well with the national wages of the day. See: The Grand Canyon: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Before work on the dam itself could begin, four 15 metres wide diversion tunnels needed to be constructed with two tunnels on each side of the Colorado River. An ingenious method of drilling dynamite holes was invented called 'Jumbo' which allowed 20 men at once to stand on rows of platforms built on top of a truck. This innovation allowed the tunnels to be built within 2 years, one year ahead of schedule.

Men suffered from 'pneumonia' on the job but many believe that diesel fumes from earth moving trucks caused the health problems. Officially, 96 men died building the Hoover Dam.

Another interesting story was the dam's mascot nicknamed 'Nig', a black dog with a white blaze on his chest. Everyone on the site knew his name as the dog wandered around the site. Sadly, he was crushed under a truck's tyre and buried in a memorial onsite. The name on the plaque was later labelled racist and his name was changed to just "Boulder Dam Mascot'.

Hoover Dam

The recently constructed Memorial Bridge is part of the Hoover Dam Bypass (top left corner).

 For a more detailed story of the Hoover Dam see:

If you ever plan to travel by car from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, don't forget to take a slight detour to the highway that is best, yes, Route 66!! Pen in a stop at Seligman.

Originally founded as a railway junction town in 1886, Seligman is now a tiny reminder of the famous highway, Route 66, that was opened in 1926 and designed to open up south-west USA from Chicago to Los Angeles. In 'Grapes of Wrath' it's portrayed as a cruel obstacle to conquer for the fleeing Dust Bowl farmers nicknamed 'Okies' (Oklahoma); yet, it was also a path to salvation and hope - California!

In 1987 the State of Arizona dedicated a small stretch of old Route 66 from Seligman to Kingman as 'Historic Route 66' mainly due to the efforts of the Delgadillo brothers, Juan and Angel (some call him Seligman's 'Guardian Angel'). Today, their families still maintain a 'Snow Cap' fast food shop and a gift shop/museum with plenty of Route 66 memorabilia. Angel's former barber shop, which is covered in business cards, is still on display. Customers beware! You can still get your kicks from Delgadillo's Route 66 'Snow Cap' shop when they serve you! Watch out for the flying mustard sauce bottle and the minature ice creams. One hot, flustered lady traveller did not appreciate the joke when presented with a miniscule snowcap treat.


A whacky sense of humour is  a Delgadillo trademark which is usually appreciated by unsuspecting customers.

Angel clipped hair here from 1950 to 1996.


Whacky jokes are matched by whacky cars. Disney/Pixar was inspired by Angel Delgadillo's Route 66 stories for its animated movie 'Cars' especially how the town of Seligman suffered with the opening of the bypass along Route 40.

Former Director of National Parks Service, Stephen Mather, once quizzed over the cost of maintaining parks in the USA said that it's "a cheap way to make better citizens". His vision of giving all Americans an opportunity to experience animals in the wild and great nature in the national parks should have the benefit of making citizens appreciate and defend their own democractic freedoms. In fact, during World War 2 many American servicemen visited rest camps in several national parks including the Grand Canyon. For example, in 1943 1.6 million soldiers enjoyed respite in the national parks. U.S. servicemen and servicewomen are still given an 'Active Military Free Pass' into the national parks. There are now 390 parks in the National Park System.

For more information on Stephen Mather see: National Parks: America's Best Idea

 The Grand Canyon is a huge incision made by the Colorado River into an elevated Colorado Plateau 5-6 million years ago but the desert plateau had its Vishnu basement rocks forming over 2 billion years ago. Erosion caused by the irregular flows from the Colorado River and its tributaries coupled with the steep gradient and heavy desert sediment loads contributed to massive carving of the Grand Canyon.


* 446 kms long.

* up to 29 kms wide.

* 70 million years ago the Colorado Plateau was formed as part of the Rocky Mountains formation when the North   American Plate overrode the Pacific Plate.

* Evidence of human habitation begins at 12,000-9,000 years ago with the Paleo-Indians communities. The Ancestral Puebloans occupied the Canyon A.D.800-1300 whilst the ancestors to the Hualapai, Havasupai, Southern Paiute and Navajo moved into the Canyon circa. A.D.1300- 1500.

* A.D.1540 the Hopis guided the Spanish explorers on a wild goose chase to the South Rim which the Spanish frustratingly called 'Devil's Valley'.

* In 1858 the first American explorer, Lt.Joseph C. Ives was assisted by  Hualapai Indians on a similarly unsuccessful adventure into the Canyon. Ives thought the Grand Canyon was "useless". Major John Wesley Powell led a boating expedition which included his brother and 8 mountain men through the Grand Canyon in 1869.

* 1901 the railway arrived at the South Rim increasing tourism as well as increasing the problem of mining rights and private land grabs.

*1908 President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon as a National Monument but existing legitimate mining titles and land holdings remained.

*1919 Congress enacts the Grand Canyon National Park.

* Uranium mining existed in the Grand Canyon National Park until 1969 but the land was not returned to the public domain until 1987.

* William Randolph Hurst, the media magnate, was embroiled in a land ownership dispute with the National Parks Service losing his land to the Service in court but gaining $85,000 for a well positioned 160 acre homestead and copper mine. His asbestos mine also operated for many years and is still in the family estate although closed for many years.

* Some ranchers were able to graze their cattle along the rim of the Grand Canyon until 1985.

* The Navajo Indians fought for their land rights gaining a treaty in 1868. Today, the Navajos Reservation comprises nearly 44,000 square kilometres, the largest reservation in the USA.

* In 1933 a small group of Civilian Conservation Corps workers, who were taking a break from constructing tracks in the Grand Canyon, discovered in a cave three figurines each made from a single twig willow. Since that find, more than 500 split-twig figurines have been found in the Canyon. The figurines probably were probably totems representing deer or big-horn sheep.


The South Rim of the Grand Canyon near Verkamp's Visitor Center



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